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Aug. 5th, 2019 @ 02:28 pm Dividing "things I need to do by categories"
It took me a long time to develop a normal amount of "doing necessary things". Partly I had problems getting started on things (from big projects to every day things like getting out of bed). Partly I resented learning a rote system that didn't fit what I prioritised, so I didn't learn a system of "do this amount of housework every day" routine that I might have benefited from. Partly I was very perfectionist, so it felt futile to do *some* when I still wasn't doing *all*

I've got a lot better in various ways. Partly I have built up routines for day-to-day stuff. I have through various different tricks/habits/self-therapy slowly de-mystified "getting started". But there's a lot I'd still like to improve on.

I used to survive by basically living a status quo that had terrible housework, and a lot of regular socialising, but almost none of what you might call "working toward things". So in some ways that worked well, but I didn't want to get to age 80 and discover that I still went to the pub twice a week, but had never achieved anything and still lived in a similar student-style flat to when I was in my early twenties. Although I mean, maybe I should have been happier with that trade off, but I wasn't. But because my brain is infested with counter-productive perfectionism, as soon as I started to get better at things, it felt like I needed to be getting better at things ALL THE TIME.

Ideally I'd have regular self-care time. And regular socialising with other people. And time for the creative hobbies I enjoy doing: writing, GMing roleplaying, designing board games, programming, etc. And time for self-improvement, time for self-therapy, learning to dress better, learning to be a more pleasant person to be around. And time for "we really should have done this at some point" chores. And now I'm adding to the list "activism" as the crises I'm living through have ever more impossible to ignore. And so on.

But that is... a lot. I probably *can't* do all of that. But I can't bring myself to officially decide not to bother on any of them.

I've been through several previous systems. Recently I've been trying out "no responsibilities sat" where I can do just nothing, or work on what I feel like, without feeling constrained by "what I feel like I should do" which often killed my motivation. And I added "overdue chores Sunday", not the entire day, but basically I'd try to do SOME chore/chores which had been lingering with me never finding time for it, without feeling guilt for whether it had been on the list for days or years.

I realised the reason those worked is that it didn't make so much difference if I did the self-care and chores a lot or a little, as long as there kept being SOME at a steady rate, but not so much they took over everything else, or so little that they never happened.

Partly, I made the effort to stop thinking of all the chores as "I'll catch up once and then I'll be a Functioning Adult TM" but instead, "if I do a little bit every week or so on necessary house-ownership care, or necessary body-having appointments, or buying things that we might need but were never urgent, then over time I will be mostly up to date on the important things". And new things will always arrive, but as long as the new stuff is added.

Now I'm seriously considering... should I do that for everything? Not so much have a dedicated day, as I don't know if I want to do all those things the same amount. But maybe have a shuffled list, where if I have some time, I can say, "pick one or two of these at random, work on one of those for a bit", to ensure, I keep doing SOME stuff on all of them.

What does everyone else do? Do you have a way of balancing so many demands? Or do you in practice live in a status quo of "if things keep going like this, then in 20 years I'll feel it went well", and responding to additional demands as they come up?

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Aug. 5th, 2019 @ 01:51 pm Dad's death and funeral
Dad died a couple of weeks ago and the funeral was last week.

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Jul. 8th, 2019 @ 10:40 pm Avengers Endgame
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Jul. 8th, 2019 @ 10:22 pm Library at Mount Char
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There is an emperor of the world. Like this modern, real world, except this guy magically underpins the very fabric of the universe. He took over, about 6000 years ago, overthrowing some other ruler about who little is known. He has powerful allies, beasts, planets, sometimes humans but not usually.

His power is in magic, mostly in the form of knowledge. The language of beasts. Incredible healing arts. The ability to walk the lands of the dead and resurrect others or possibly yourself. Stored in a vast library.

For complicated reasons, he has an identity as a regular human in a suburb somewhere. Hosts barbecues, etc. His neighbours are, unbeknownst, some protective camouflage, if any enemy finds him.

He ends up adopting twelve children, and raising them, each being taught one of twelve major fields of study. There is a lot of being sent off to live with powerful sea creatures, or live in the woods with deer, or study endlessly under his guidance until you know whole books.

The novel skips through the early years, and then the bulk of it is what happens when the emperor goes missing and his children try to deal with it: there is a lot of one of the quieter ones trying to juggle multiple balls of intrigue amongst all the others.

I loved, loved, loved, loved the worldbuilding. It was a marvellous marrying of a traditional academic-y magic education, like things from Dark Is Rising, or Earthsea, or Once and Future King, with an almost urban fantasy setting of these ridiculous people trying to juggle alliances and also get familiar with mainstream american society.

The first caveat (and content warning) is, their upbringing is very abusive, both emotionally and physically, both from their father and some of the other siblings, including some occasions of torture and sexual violence. This is very well written, and it doesn't linger on it gratuitously, but it was still pretty heavy.

The second caveat is, I loved the worldbuilding and inter-sibling politics more than the overarching change-the-whole-world stuff. Some parts of that worked very well (when the emperor's rule overlaps with mundane politics, for instance). Others were ok, but just felt like they were too much for the book to carry.

So, if you like the magical library and people training in specialities with animals and learned other powers, this is a book you might REALLY REALLY REALLY like, or you might not.

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Jul. 8th, 2019 @ 10:14 pm Good Omens
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So, yes, that was ever so well done! I don't have much more to say, really. I mean, gosh, what a difficult adaption, but they did it very well.

Some people pointed out they had rather more voiceover than you might expect, which I think is true, but it didn't seem unreasonably much -- I can see you might have adapted it more, but since the adaption they did do I thought worked ever so well, I'm not sure I want to second guess what could have been different.

Crowly and Aziraphale were so so lovely.

I'm really glad I watched it with people too, I think that helped the experience.

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Jul. 3rd, 2019 @ 03:49 pm Allusions, foreshadowing, mysteries, in-jokes, sarcasm, flirting
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With puzzles or mysteries, there's a big benefit to consuming ones that are just on the edge of what you can work out.

But what it took me a while to realise was that the same applied to a lot of stories (and maybe real life as well). Like stretching your comfort zone, stretching your understanding by reading things you can follow but only if you work at it, is useful because it gives you practice at understanding things, and *feels* good because it feels like you worked things out.

Not all the time! It's good to read things you can follow easily, for various reasons, and to read things that are beyond you occasionally to see what you can get out of them. Lots of book-loving or precocious children are like these, hoovering up stories they only partly get, but getting a lot of out it.

But there's some particular techniques that rely on the same process, but because they can fail with too much understanding just as much as too little, they only work for some readers.

What Harry Potter Got Right

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Jul. 1st, 2019 @ 01:56 pm The Friday Five

1. What is one of your favorite things about your country?

Oh! Um. Temperate weather. NHS, obviously. Countryside. Never being more than a few hours drive from the sea. Vegetarian food (it seems strange to praise British cuisine, but you should see everywhere else). A nation heavy with people who also find socialising just a little embarrassing :)

2. What is your favorite thing to do on your country's national holiday?

Ooh. No. No, no, no. No-one sensible wants to see British patriotism again. We don't have a holiday, the closest in England is St George's day (which is still pretty suspicious). Or "whenever England are playing in the [soccer] world cup".

3. What do you usually do for your country's national holiday?

See above. But if there were one, it would probably be mostly like another bank holiday, so, enjoy sunshine if appropriate, have an extra day of weekend, maybe have some beer?

4. What is your favorite national/regional ethnic dish?

Probably fish and chips. Or "chip shop chips", since I don't eat fish. I know that's not exclusive to this country, but it still seems quite quintessential, and is one I really appreciate.

5. Who is your favorite national hero and why?

Oh gosh, there are so many favourite Britons, but how many could I still bear to be associated with. Maybe Newton, because how many countries have a maths-themed hero?

And I have a soft spot for the retro personification of Britain (or varyingly, England), John Bull, mostly just because hes's a bit less well known now. But I find it sort of endearing that people saw themselves represented by someone bluff, strong, stubborn, maybe a bit bull-headed, down-to-earth, maybe a bit stupid. It's like, "What do you want to be seen as? Well, ok, I'll accept stupid but never let it be said I listen to reason,"

Which, well, may cause as many problems. But is very far from the dainty, effete stereotype I periodically see applied to this country. Apparently he's shown up in some "each nation characterised by a giant fighting robot" anime.

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Jun. 19th, 2019 @ 12:32 pm Almost nothing is according to the rules. Everything is "what everyone thinks is ok"
This is something else I always knew in theory but never internalised.

By brain has a great tendency to glom onto "the rules". I always wanted to know what's officially allowed, so I can do that, and not have to constantly worry if I'm transgressing. You may notice I've always tended to worry about "breaking the rules" way too much.

Everyone has this in their own way. Most people's idea of "the rules" is much less fixed than mine used to be, but people get REALLY upset when reality fails to confirm to what they think the rules are!

But I always felt like there had to be fixed rules. For everyone. That people could tell you. That's sometimes stood me well: when there are good rules, I'm good at following them.

And sometimes that's true. Often the law acts like that, although often it doesn't. So do policies, or competition rules.

But usually, in practice, what's "according to the rules" is "what everyone thinks is ok". However inconsistent and nonsensical that is. That usually works out sometimes. People learn their jobs from the people around them. They learn "allowed" behaviour by what people object to. Doing what someone wants is better than doing what someone says, just sometimes neither of you know.

But seeing the "real" rules instead of the "notional" rules is sometimes like hearing a conversation behind the noise of a road drill. It's possible, but the other version constantly inserts itself into my awareness more.

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Jun. 12th, 2019 @ 10:15 am My Brain: ADD-y? Depression-y? Something else?
Figuring out if your brain is "normal" or "functioning well" is notoriously finicky. I've been going through another large batch of introspection recently. "Too much introspection" may itself be a problem.

I'm adding the regular disclaimer -- I'm talking about how things *often* feel. The fact that I'm talking about it almost always means I feel *better* and am able to think about it. This isn't something that is new because I'm talking about, really it isn't, it's something I can see, only by contrast with having less of it. And, even by just mostly ignoring all these, I've still had a very good life -- if you know me well, please don't feel bad that this is sometimes there too.

ADD-like effects

There's SOMETHING. Lots of people have pointed this out. But what I'm not sure of is, is this a problem that I would benefit from fixing, or have lots of tea and coping strategies added up to a successfully functioning adult?

I'm counting "coping strategies" that take a lot of energy as "a problem" and coping strategies that don't take a lot of energy as "successfully functioning adult" FWIW.


* When I can't concentrate, I can't concentrate, it's like a wall, and after even a few seconds of trying, my attention skitters off to something else.
* Lots of caffeine seems to be good for me, and if anything help me sleep, not prevent me
* Very small distractions tend to very much derail my concentration


* Problems concentrating don't seem to be when work is "boring" (that doesn't help, but it doesn't seem to be a big problem), but when if it seems like it isn't worthwhile or most commonly, if I don't know if it'll succeed, or I don't know what I'll do next. That seems really different to what most people describe as ADD-y problems.
* I've always had a big problems getting things done to deadlines. I would often absolutely freeze up and be unable to work, like I was terrified when there was no reason to be. But I never had the problems many people describe with schoolwork: "here's a long list of things, work your way through them steadily" was great, that's what I was best at!
* I talked about small distractions, and finding it hard to concentrate, but... those all apply to people sometimes. Most people find writing fiction hard to do! Most people get distractable and forget things when they're tired.


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Jun. 10th, 2019 @ 04:34 pm Detailed analysis of a dnd puzzle room
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Some spoilers for both groups of players (telling you stuff the other group found out, and confirming which of your guesses were right.) If you're interested in what went on behind the scenes, please ask me and I can talk through a non-spoiler version (or if you read this by accident, let me know, it's not a big deal as long as I know).

I talked about the puzzle rooms before, but I'm going to go through in more detail, to compare the amount of type of prep I did to that of other GMs reading.

What I wrote down

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I don't usually write up in this level of detail because obviously, it takes a lot longer than it did to write the planning! But it's interesting to do sometimes, so I can consciously notice what I was doing explicitly, and what I was implicitly doing in the background.

When I was less experienced, I would have needed to write down a lot of the specific things that here I just kept in my mind. Or if I was writing an adventure for someone else to run, I would have to spell out the extra detail I only verbalised now, because a lot of the good things about the encounter were the general idea of how it should play out, not the specifics.

Although even then, a lot of what went well was because I knew the players and know how to slot appropriate connections in as I went along. A published adventure can't easily do that. The best you could do is list the treasure as what was definitely there, and then offer the GM to fill in whatever felt appropriate, with some specific examples for them to use if they didn't have a better idea. Things like, here's some prompts (for things connected with the room, for things with an interesting backstory, for things that are of particular interest to the players somehow)

In terms of "puzzles" I think the most important thing is to give the players some experience of "trying different approaches and seeing what works", but make sure that the encounter being satisfying doesn't rely on them being able to figure it out logically. And single-answer puzzles are usually bad for this, unless you build an adventure about them with going asking different NPCs what they think the answer might be, etc. In this case, because I wanted a like-Labyrinth-film feel, I went as close to "single answer puzzle" as I could.

I think I learned how to do it better in future. Partly by using puzzles sparingly, but mostly, how to do it well when it comes up. Now I think of it, some of it is sleight of hand: it's giving the *experience* of solving a puzzle, but actually, having a fallback so it matters less whether you SUCCEED or not, as long as you give it a fair try.

Of course, that's for *most* DnD games where the PCs are supposed to be reasonably successful. Sometimes you want to play a gritty deadly tomb of horrors dark souls game, in which case you can go for "they may never solve it and that's ok, it's up to them if they want to push their luck or not" approach.

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